Provisional greenhouse gas emissions figures released this morning by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) show that Ireland will meet its Kyoto Protocol obligations.

However, greenhouse gas emissions increased by 0.58 million tonnes (one per cent) in 2012 to 57.92 million tonnes reversing a six-year downward trend in emissions since 2006.

Agriculture remains the single largest contributor to overall emissions, at 32.1 per cent of the total, followed by energy (primarily electricity generation) and transport at 21.9 per cent and 18.8 per cent respectively. The remainder is made up by the industry and commercial at 14.7 per cent, the residential sector at 10.7 per cent and waste at 1.8 per cent.

The agriculture sector saw increases in cattle numbers (4.4 per cent) and sheep numbers (nine per cent) in 2012 that has resulted in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions of three per cent, according to the EPA. These increases are in line with the expansion of the sector under the Food Harvest 2020 plan, it said. 

While Ireland is on track to meet its Kyoto Protocol commitments, the increase in emissions in 2012 points to the significant challenges ahead in meeting EU 2020 targets and developing a low-carbon emission pathway to 2050 particularly in the context of a recovering economy.

Commenting on the figures Dara Lynott, deputy director general of the EPA said: “Ireland will meet its Kyoto Protocol obligations, which is very welcome. However, increases in emissions in 2012 show that environmental pressures remain, and will increase, particularly as the economy starts to recover. The figures underline the requirement to decouple emissions from economic growth.  They also point to the urgent need for a higher carbon price that would provide an incentive for using less CO2 intensive energy sources, such as natural gas.”

Speaking at the launch of the EPA report, Dr Eimear Cotter, senior manager of the EPA said: “Reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will require concerted policy action to develop a positive and long-term response to climate change. Individual responsibility and behavioural change also have an important role to play.  Options such as greater efficiency at farm level, travelling less by car and reducing energy use and energy loss in households all offer potential to deliver emission reductions.”

The EPA report is available here.

According to the EPA, key emissions trends in 2012 were as follows:

  • Energy emissions (principally electricity generation) increased by 5.9 per cent
  • Agriculture emissions increased by three per cent
  • Industry and Commercial emissions increased by 1.6 per cent
  • Transport sector emissions decreased 3.5 per cent
  • Residential sector emissions decreased by 5.9 per cent
  • Higher emissions from the energy sector reflect an increase in the use of coal in electricity generation underpinned by lower coal and carbon prices.
  • Agriculture emissions are three per cent higher in 2012 as animal numbers, particularly cattle and sheep, increased in line with expansion of the sector under Food Harvest 2020.